House Votes on debt limit, PAYGO

U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, both Democrats, voted in favor of raising the debt limit by $1.9 trillion earlier this week. The legislation also includes language known as PAYGO, which requires that any new federal spending be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget. Lawmakers allowed a previous PAYGO law to expire in 2002.

While the House has followed PAYGO informally in recent years, the Senate has often waived the obligation. The new law will require senators to follow the rule of offsetting spending with cuts.

“Since (2002), we have seen record deficits,” said Michaud in a release. “It is long past time that PAYGO is reinstated. While alone it won’t get rid of our total debt, it will help prevent its growth and finally return some fiscal sanity to Washington.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Review

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said recently they agree with top military officials that it’s time to review the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which is based on a law passed in 1993, but neither expressed support for an outright repeal at this time.

President Obama used his recent State of the Union address to call for the elimination of the policy, which prevents openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from serving in the U.S. Military.

During a recent hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is was announced that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is asking Pentagon officials to begin a yearlong review of the policy.

Collins, who is a member of the committee, said she believes the policy needs to be reconsidered.

“She has long said that the Department of Defense’s policy warrants a thorough review that takes into account the demands on our military forces, the challenges of instituting major military policy changes during wartime and the input provided by military leaders,” said Kevin Kelley, a Collins’ spokesman.

Snowe, who voted for the 1993 law while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, said it’s no surprise that after 17 years the policy is getting scrutinized.

“Because of the implications for current military readiness, particularly at a time when the nation is engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as future readiness, I would want to evaluate rigorously the specifics of the repeal as Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen testified that they would provide to the president and the Congress,” she said in a statement.

Collins weighs in on Christmas Day bomber

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has been speaking out this week on the Justice Department’s decision to treat the alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an “ordinary criminal” rather than a terrorist.

She said in a statement and in cable news appearances this week that Attorney General Eric Holder should have “consulted” with intelligence officials before deciding to read him his Miranda rights and allow him to obtain a lawyer.

“The lack of coordination on the front end and the inexplicable, reflexive choice to use a law enforcement approach were dangerous decisions,” she said in a release. “We will never know whether the quality and quantity of information might have been superior had he not been given a lawyer who is now guiding him on what to reveal and what not to disclose.”

Holder said he informed intelligence officials, but made the decision on how to treat Abdulmutallab himself.

– Rebekah Metzler

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